Fix Posture and Pain From Sitting Too Long. Office Workers Must Read!
Updated: Jan 11, 2021
This was blog idea was actually requested/suggested by a client who works in front of a computer all day every day. He has all the tell-tale signs of someone who sits in front of a computer in an office.
Obviously, office workers are the most common for the this. But this applies to anyone who spends a lot of time in a seated position. This includes the likes of divers, students/school kids, gamers and for some of these symptoms, the likes of hairdressers.
So what are the most common issues in regards to posture and pain for people who spend time in a seated position?
Well the ones I will be looking at are as follows:
1. Forward head position causing neck pain.
2. Rounded shoulders
3. Pelvic tilt (which links to so much more)
4. Tight hamstrings and Weak/Dysfunctional glutes
Now a lot of these tie into each other as there is a lot of knock-on effects from other parts of the body. As I said many times before, where the pain is, doesn’t mean that’s where the cause is.
1. Head forward position
This is too much technology 101. Laptops, phones and tablets are all the main culprits for this. Think about your head position when on your phone. You end sticking your head out a lot further than it normally is.
Look at anyone on their phone and I guarantee you spot this.
So how do we fix it? Well, start by spending less time in that position. If that means less time looking at your phone or tablet, then that’s probably not a bad thing with more benefits than just your neck.
There’s a few simple exercises. And nearly all simply involve a corrective motion.
Firstly, start by pulling your chin. Almost like your trying to make a double chin. This will strengthen the muscles in the front of the neck that have been lengthened by your head going forward. To help with this, you can try holding a small ball between your chin and collar bone to train the motion.
Sounds simple but it works.
2. Rounded Shoulders
Ah rounded shoulders. The figure head of bad posture. But it’s the knock-on effect it has. This effects your ability to go into a good overhead position. It can also play a part in the neck position previously mentioned.
You end up with tight weak muscles at the front (chest and shoulders) and weak long muscles at the back (traps, rhomboids and rear deltoids). So to fix both sides you need to address both sides.
Lets start with the front. It is vital that you open up your front. Stretch your chest and your shoulders out.
My favourite chest stretch is placing your hand on the wall, slight bend in the elbow, and turn away from the wall opening up your chest.
A great movement for opening your shoulders is by taking them through a full range of motion. Take the likes of PVC pipe, brush shaft or even resistance band. The wider your grip, the easier it will be. Bring the pipe or band in front of you touching your legs, then bring it right the way over head and then down behind you as far as you can. Ideally until in touches your butt. Then come back the way you came so it’s back to the front. I like to do this for 2/3 sets of 10/12.
Now we’ve stretched the front, we need to strengthen the back.
One of the best exercises for this is band pulls. Simple grab a resistance band and hold it out at chest
level. Slight bend in the elbows, then pull the band, lengthening it by pulling your shoulder blades together.
The pull should come from your back, not your arms.
Another great exercise for this is face pulls. This can be done with resistance bands or a cable machine. All you have to do is, pull the handles towards your face. You want to get your hands to either side of your head with the goal to be getting you hands at least inline with your ears. Getting your elbows right the way back too.
To work a bit of external rotation in the shoulder as well, you can try and pint your thumbs behind you instead of having your thumbs pointing towards your head.
And for another level, once you’ve done the face pull you can push the band or cable over head like an overhead press. Then come back down the way you came.
There’s hundreds of ways to train these muscles. Good posture is essential for any exercise.
So if you are training deadlifts, squats, overhead press and doing any back exercise, you will be training these muscles. But if they need a bit of extra help, band pulls and face pulls are the way to go.
3. Pelvic Tilt
Your pelvis plays an especially important role in nearly everything in your body. From back pain to knee pain, it can all be traced back to your pelvis.
I know personally I get a tight lower back from my pelvis tilting forward slightly caused by tight quads.
So the role it plays in linking your body is crucial.
The most common ways are an anterior pelvic tilt and posterior pelvic tilt. It can tilt to the side but that’s less common in my experience, so we’ll leave that for another day.
Lets look at the anterior pelvic tilt. This is when the pelvis tilts forwards and the back of the pelvis is higher than the front. This typically puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. And in a similar case to me, a tight front.
When you’re in a seated position, think about your hip flex position. They spend the whole time almost flexed as much as they can. This obviously leads to them getting very tight and weak.
How you would get an APT and tight lower back from sitting, is sitting with your chest out and hips back causing you back to curl.
I know I do this. I spend time sat in front of a computer, like I am now funny enough. To counter that rounded forward position, I end up sitting back more and curl my back.
To fix one problem, you cause another.
So to fix this you need to start by fixing your sitting habits or you’ll just running round in circles.
Spend less time seated, get up and move. I know this can sometime be hard in work but it is a must if you want a healthy body.
If your lower back it tight you’ll need to stretch it. I spent ages talking about lower backs in my last blog so you can go check it out when it comes to dealing with lower back issues.
But basically stretch out the muscles in your lower back and tight the muscles up at the front. This means a lot more core training. A mix between exercises that focus on your abs like crunches and exercises that focus on bracing a stabilising your core like planks, side planks and Paloff press.
As for your hip flexers, the best stretch for these is a lunge stretch. Get in a kneeling lunge position and push your hips forward while keeping your core tight so to not put pressure on your back.
Now for the posterior pelvic tilt. This ties in with that rounded posture. With the rounded posture, comes tucked hips. This is part of the slouch position.
To correct this you need to bring your pelvis back into position. So you’ll need to do the opposite as we did for APT.
So we’ve got to open on the front of the body. A great stretch for this is the cobra position in yoga. Get in almost a push up position and keep your hips on the ground and your chest up off the ground. This will stretch out you abs.
You will also probably need to strengthen your lower back. A good exercise for this is hyperextensions. Lie on your front with your hands either by your head or out in front of you. Then pick as much of your body off the ground as you can by squeezing your lower back muscles and glutes. Hold that position for a couple of seconds, then relax. Repeat that for 10-15 reps.
Again, adding in those bracing exercises like planks etc will help a lot.
Same as before as well, doing compound exercises like deadlifts and squats etc require good posture and will help you learn to organise your body.
4. Hamstrings and Glutes
Both of these muscles get effected badly by sitting too much. Let’s start with the hamstrings.
Thing about your hamstring position when you sit. Your knee is flexed, meaning it’s bent. The muscles that bend the knee are the hamstrings. When you contract your hamstring, the knee bends and brings the heel towards your butt.
This means that when you sit, your hamstrings stay in tight shortened position. This results in the hamstrings becoming tight and not very strong.
Now let’s look at your glutes. If you sit a lot, you drain your glutes of blood flow. This is why when you sit too long your ass goes numb.
Think of glutes like a sponge. When you put pressure on a sponge, you drain it. Same goes for your glutes. You put pressure on by sitting, doing this drains your glutes of blood flow. This made worse by guys who keep their wallet in the back pocket. Really not good for your glutes.
As we touched on before, when you sit, your hips are in a flexed position. The muscles that are used to extend your hips is our glutes. So that means that they are getting lengthened and weaker by sitting. And due to the pressure on them from sitting, you will probably not be able to squeeze your glutes to push your hips into extension.
A great exercise for your hamstrings and glutes is glute bridges, or if you can, single leg glute bridges. To do this you would lie on your back with your knees bent. Then drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground. This will push you into full hip extension and strength your hamstrings. You also don’t want to overextend your back, so it’s important to keep your core tight too.
As for stretching your hamstrings, there are loads of hamstring stretches out there. Doesn’t have to be fancy so keep it simple. Bending over touch your toes will stretch your hamstrings and stretch your lower back. Or one of my favourites is to put one foot on a box or a chair out straight in front of you. Then, while keeping your back straight, lean forwards. You will feel a great stretch in your hamstring.
I could do on about posture and flexibility for ages so I will probably go deeper into this another time. This is just a very basic run through of things to watch out for and some quick fixes. Sitting in an office or in a car is the enemy for your body. I’ve had so many clients over the years have bad posture and mobility because they sit all day at work. Keep on top of this and look after your body.